The Plain Truth

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Devotional for Monday, April 20

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (NRSV)

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul asserted a point that still needs to be made from time to time, if for no other reason than to counter dangerous notions within the church.

Beware Christians: There are people, some of them clergy or theologians, who would obscure or even deny the core Christian truth that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, resurrected—that is, transformed in such a way that death can no longer touch our Lord and Savior.

Jesus was not merely raised in the hearts of believers. Resurrection cannot be reduced to a vague hope for a better future. The Easter story is not a fantasy to demonstrate the power of positive thinking.

Scripture is clear: Christ died on the cross, Christ physically arose from the dead in the resurrection, and the risen Christ will come again. Thanks to Christ’s victory over death, a day is coming when we also will experience resurrection.

The Bible is full of allegories and parables, some of them coming straight from Jesus’ mouth and clearly marked as such. The story of the crucifixion and ensuing resurrection is neither. To be effective, these events had to occur in space and time, to overcome the sins we have commited in space and time.

Believe this, and you are Christian. Churchgoers who deny this are people who like the trappings of Christianity, but have not absorbed its core message, its distinguishing, world-altering feature.

These people use very important words differently than the rest of us, and they often hide the fact they are doing so. Christians, be sure you are asking your leaders the right questions.

The subject of the resurrection’s importance came up in a seminary class years ago. The professor laid out a hypothetical scenario where someone definitively proves Christ’s dead body has been found. Then he asked us students, what would such a discovery do to our faith?

Some of the students said they would want to continue in their ministries, talking about Christ’s message of hope and love. I took a different approach.

“I would be going back to public relations work,” I said. “Might as well make as much money as I can in this life, enjoying the experience as much as I can.”

Only fools would build their lives around what they know to be a deception. And if God is not at work to restore the world from sin, all that remains is at worst a “dog-eat-dog” lifestyle or at best a kind of utilitarianism.

Paul was more eloquent: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

I believed in the core message of Christianity in my seminary class, and I believe it now. We who have such a belief have hope, and we should tell others the message that changes everything.

As Paul said in the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified.” Anyone preaching anything less has yet to present the gospel truth.

Lord, may we never forget or deny what Christ did for us on the cross, the proof being in the resurrection. Maranatha! May your return be soon. Amen.

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